Tag Archives: Concordia University

Getting intimate with your smart clothing at Concordia University (Canada)

The Karma Chameleon project at Concordia University is an investigation into ‘smart’ clothing that goes beyond the ‘how to’ and also asks how would we feel about clothing than can transform itself without our volition. An Apr. 16, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily highlights the project and its lead researcher, Joanna Berkowska,

Joanna Berzowska, professor and chair of the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia, has developed interactive electronic fabrics that harness power directly from the human body, store that energy, and then use it to change the garments’ visual properties.

“Our goal is to create garments that can transform in complex and surprising ways — far beyond reversible jackets, or shirts that change colour in response to heat. That’s why the project is called Karma Chameleon,” says Berzowska.

The Apr. 15, 2013 Concordia University news release by Emily Essert, which originated the news item, describes the unique technical aspect of this work,

The major innovation of this research project is the ability to embed these electronic or computer functions within the fibre itself: rather than being attached to the textile, the necessary electronic components are woven into these new composite fibres. The fibres consist of multiple layers of polymers, which, when stretched and drawn out to a small diameter, begin to interact with each other. The fabric, produced in collaboration with the École Polytechnique de Montréal’s Maksim Skorobogatiy, represent a significant advance in the development of “smart textiles.”

Although it’s not yet possible to manufacture clothing with the new composite fibres, Berzowska worked with fashion designers to create conceptual prototypes that can help us visualize how such clothing might look and behave. Imagine a dress that changes shape and colour on its own, or a shirt that can capture the energy from human movement and use it to charge an iPhone

According to Berzowska, it will be two to three decades before we see this clothing in the stores but in the meantime she’s also investigating the social impact (from the Concordia news release),

There would also be a performative aspect to wearing such garments, whose dramatic transformations may or may not be controlled by the wearer. This research raises interesting questions about human agency relative to fashion and computers. What would it mean to wear a piece of clothing with “a mind of its own,” that cannot be consciously controlled? How much intimate contact with computers do we really want?

Apparently, there will be a show at Montréal’s PHi Centre in either 2o13 or 2014, Unfortunately the centre does not list any events planned after June 2013.

The project title, Karma Chameleon gives me an excuse to feature Boy George’s identically titled hit song,

I’d never seen the video before and it was a revelation. Tip: Do not pickpocket jewellery or cheat at cards; Karma will get you.

Dialogues with the dead and other aspects of theatre and research

If theatre is, indeed, a dialogue with the dead as Antoine Vitez and Tadeusz Kantor would both have it, the dialogue I am drawn to spans many lives and many more deaths to be replicated in as many variations as can be explored, from straight theatre to circus, through installation and performance.

That quote is from Louis Patrick Leroux, associate professor at Concordia University (Montréal, Québec, Canada) and author of ‘Dialogues fantasques pour causeurs éperdus’, is being launched later today in Montréal. Leroux’s book explores links between intellectual/academic creation and theatrical/artistic expression. From the Nov. 28, 2012 news release on EurekAlert,

Concordia University researcher Louis Patrick Leroux is one scholar whose work often results in that type of outcome. A professor of creative writing and literature in Concordia’s Department of English as well as its Département d’études françaises, Leroux has spent years intimately involved in what is known as “research-creation,” a process that fosters the development and renewal of knowledge through aesthetic, technical, instrumental or other innovations.

“There’s a real need to bridge the gap between the creative and interpretive disciplines.” Leroux says. “If we can make that connection, we can link the humanities more closely to arts communities and create an important dialogue between academic and artistic creation.” He is now doing just that with his new book, Dialogues fantasques pour causeurs éperdus, published by Prise de parole.

By blending dramatic dialogues and thoughts on the creative process, Leroux gives his readers a new take on what it means to create as both a passionate and academic exercise. Before being compiled into a book, Leroux’s Dialogues were the fodder for a series of performative explorations, some theatrical, some filmed, others flirting with peformance art and installations at the Hexagram Concordia Centre for Research-Creation in Media Arts and Technologies.

The Nov. 26, 2012 Concordia University news release by Cléa Desjardins (which originated the release on EurekAlert) goes on to describe the book and give the location for its launch,

Dialogues fantasques offers an artistic way to understand the creative process and, in so doing, helps unpack the mysteries behind research-creation. Equal parts academic treatise and work of fiction, it is constructed in a way that makes the reader part of the research-creation experience. Even the book’s layout, designed by Concordia Assistant Professor of design Nathalie Dumont, invites the reader to think more about what it means to create and experience.

“There’s a lot of fascinating work that goes on in universities around the world that never makes it into peer-reviewed journals,” adds Leroux. He has been taking this message far and wide in recent months, thanks to Keynote lectures and conferences on research-creation at both Quebec City’s Université Laval and the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile. He has also explored these ideas as a Visiting Scholar at Duke University’s Centre for the Study of Canada, as well as through his current position as scholar-in-residence at the National Circus School in Montreal.

Leroux’s new book, Dialogues fantasques pour causeurs éperdus, will be launched on Thursday, November 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. [EST] at Librairie Le Port de tête (262 Mont-Royal Ave. E. [Montréal]). [emphasis mine]

The Hexagram Institute at Concordia, which Leroux directs, hosts a portal, Resonance, where you can view four of the Institute’s projects and the full text for the quote at the beginning of this post.

I wonder how long before someone decides to extend the exploration so it includes the sciences too.

I previously wrote about Concordia’s Jason Lewis and his work with poetry and mobile media in my June 29, 2012 posting.

P.o.E.M.M. from Concordia University (Canada)

Since it’s Friday before a long weekend (Canada Day on July 1, 2012 this  coming Sunday), I want to end the week on a poetic note. Concordia University’s  P.o.E.M.M. (Poems for Excitable [Mobile] Media)  project recently won an award from the Electronic Literature Organization at its annual exhibition held June 22 – 23, 2012 in West Virginia. From the June 28, 2012 news item on physorg.com,

Poetry has been following the rules for centuries. From the strict structure of the haiku to the rhythmic rhyme of the ballad, verse can be daunting to both professional poets and amateur auteurs. But poems are also media for the masses and one Concordia researcher is using mass media to put them back in the hands of the people.

Jason Lewis’s work is an integral part of Concordia’s Department of Design and Computation Arts, with projects ranging from computer game development to typographic design. A poet as well as a techie, the associate professor is combining his computing skills with the act of literary creation to develop new methods of poetic expression through a suite of ten brand new digital poetry apps.

Known as P.o.E.M.M., short for Poems for Excitable [Mobile] Media, the project is a series of poems written and designed to be read on touch devices, from large-scale exhibition surfaces to mobile screens.

For Lewis, the fact that the iPhone and iPad are personal devices was key in P.o.E.M.M.’s development. “Poetry is an intimate medium but when it comes to digital poetry, the computer screen creates distance between writer and reader. Touch screens allow the audience to be drawn into a closer proximity to the computer screen than ever before,” says Lewis, whose first digital poetry project for a touch-screen interface was created back in 2007, when the iPhone was in its infancy.

Here’s a video of the Smooth Second Bastard piece,

From the June 27, 2012 news item by Cléa Desjardins for Concordia University,

Smooth Second Bastard features three texts that are related meditations on the difference between being asked “where ya from” and being asked “are you from around here?” [which was released on June 26, 2012]

The first version of each app is built around Lewis’s poetry, but then each is extended to include texts by other poets, who write on themes ranging from miscommunication across language and cultural identity to the excitement of heading out into a great unknown.

Released as separate applications available for download through iTunes, and developed in collaboration with former computation arts student Bruno Nadeau, the P.o.E.M.M. apps allow readers to interact with the poem’s text. New iterations of the apps will give users the chance to add their own words, use Twitter feeds to generate new strands of poetry, and to play with words, design and structure to generate original poems that can be rewritten at the tap of a screen.

If you go to the P.o.E.M.M. website, you’ll find more pieces, their apps, and descriptions such as this,

Smooth Second Bastard is a meditation on the difference between being asked “where ya from” and being asked “are you from around here?” Growing up where and how I did, [emphasis mine] I tend to see insider-outsider dynamics before I see prejudice. Such a viewpoint can be gracious or naïve, and I sometimes find it difficult to tell which.

Smooth Second Bastard was commissioned by the imagineNATIVE Festival for the Vital to the General Public Welfare exhibition. The exhibition version consists of a triptych with 42″ two-point touch surface + a 122″ x 13″ digital print + a 40″ x 24″ digital print.

As for Lewis’ comment  ” Growing up where and how I did”, I excerpted this description from Lewis in his ‘No Choice About the Terminology’ piece,

… often struggling with what terminology to use to describe my ethnicity (Cherokee, Hawaiian, Samoan, raised in northern California rural mountain redneck culture), and my profession (artist? poet? software developer? educator? designer?), and recognizing both the danger and seduction of neat categorizations …

Interesting to contemplate “where ya from/are you from around here” and how we classify ourselves as we celebrate Canada’s 145th anniversary.

Bacteria and biobatteries

It’s more a possibility at the moment than anything else but researchers at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada have found a way to make an enzyme behave more like a battery. From the April 19, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Concordia Associate Professor László Kálmán — along with his colleagues in the Department of Physics, graduate students Sasmit Deshmukh and Kai Tang — has been working with an enzyme found in bacteria that is crucial for capturing solar energy. Light induces a charge separation in the enzyme, causing one end to become negatively charged and the other positively charged, much like in a battery.

In nature, the energy created is used immediately, but Kálmán says that to store that electrical potential, he and his colleagues had to find a way to keep the enzyme in a charge-separated state for a longer period of time.

“We had to create a situation where the charges don’t want to or are not allowed to go back, and that’s what we did in this study,” he says.

Kálmán and his colleagues showed that by adding different molecules, they were able to alter the shape of the enzyme and, thus, extend the lifespan of its electrical potential.

In the April 17, 2012 news item written by Luciana Gravotta for Concordia University, Kálmán provides an explanation of why the researchers were changing the enzyme’s shape,

In its natural configuration, the enzyme is perfectly embedded in the cell’s outer layer, known as the lipid membrane. The enzyme’s structure allows it to quickly recombine the charges and recover from a charge-separated state.

However, when different lipid molecules make up the membrane, as in Kálmán’s experiments, there is a mismatch between the shape of the membrane and the enzyme embedded within it. Both the enzyme and the membrane end up changing their shapes to find a good fit. The changes make it more difficult for the enzyme to recombine the charges, thereby allowing the electrical potential to last much longer.

“What we’re doing is similar to placing a race car on snow-covered streets,” says Kálmán. The surrounding conditions prevent the race car from performing as it would on a racetrack, just like the different lipids prevent the enzyme from recombining the charges as efficiently as it does under normal circumstances.

Apparently the researchers are hoping to eventually create biocompatible batteries with enzymes and other biological molecules replacing traditional batteries that contain toxic metals.